The profile pictures of columnists in what used to be called the broadsheets are often an accurate pointer to the sanctimonious smugness of the scribe and his or her musings before the reader has even read them. The image of the Grauniad’s socialist-in-residence Owen Jones that appears on the paper’s webpage announcing the sacking of the crafty cockney Eric Bristow from his Sky Sports pundit job matches his pompous declaration that ‘Eric Bristow’s toxic tweets matter. These attitudes silence victims’ – a statement lifted from the piece I couldn’t bring myself to even look at. Like so many in his position who pose as an inquisitor of the consensus, Jones summarily fails to question any of the historical child abuse narrative and accepts it wholly as fact. The irrelevant viewpoint of an ex-darts player is a convenient red herring that gives Jones the green light to release the moral high-horse from his stable instead of addressing the actual issue.
The gruff opinion Eric Bristow tweeted in response to the spate of ex-footballer confessions over the past week or so is precisely what anyone with half-a-brain would expect a man of Bristow’s background and age to tweet; it wasn’t exactly ‘sensitive’, but if I want ‘sensitive’, I put Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ on the turntable, not 2 Live Crew. It is the unvarnished blokeiness of Bristow that has always been at the core of his appeal to those that like him, just as it is with Nigel Farage or Jeremy Clarkson. Maybe he should keep his opinions to his boozing buddies, but isn’t Twitter supposed to be a democratic forum where everybody is entitled to their say, a cyber Speaker’s Corner for the masses? That’s the theory, anyway.
When George Osborne copyrighted the phrase ‘We’re all in this together’ (one he should rightly be tarred with forever), the context in which he intended it to mean anything has been utterly transcended by everything else it can be applied to in this repressive, censorious society populated by timid, obedient schoolchildren masquerading as adults, terrified of being out of step with the rest of the class. Whether online, on campus, in media of both the print and broadcast variety and (especially) in public services, the fear of ostracism and exclusion from the crowd breeds the belief that if we all agree to pre-conditions in how we speak, think and respond then we’ll finally achieve the inclusive Utopia that Coca-Cola once portrayed when it tried to teach the world to sing.
Producing the next generation of consumers that will keep the economy on an even keel is a patriotic duty that opting out of risks vilification from the hypocritical harpies of Mumsnet, whose own concept of unity is rooted in an untruth because no mother dare admit her children have robbed her of her independence and taken away her identity. As someone whose morning routine is soundtracked by Radio 4, this is something I have never heard aired on ‘Woman’s Hour’, and I doubt I ever will. If Eric Bristow can lose his living because he tweeted something ‘offensive’, can you imagine the kind of punishment awaiting a prominent female in the public eye if she admitted she wished she’d never had the children that have become effective parasites draining her of all sense of who she is? Yes, we’re all in this together, none more so than that hotbed of competitive self-deception, motherhood.
Many of you may have read last week’s post, ‘A Social Disservice’, and this is a kind of sequel to that one, even if it might appear I’ve taken a roundabout route to it. But I think so much of the bureaucratic brickwork that the mother of the child I diplomatically referred to as X has come up against in an effort to retrieve a life for herself is mirrored in the wider world. It’s just more pronounced in the arena of social services and the detachment of management level, where patting one’s self on the back and earning Brownie points at dinner parties for proclaiming ‘I work with disabled children’ to an anticipated round of applause is the extent of actual involvement, as far removed from the reality of being cooped-up with a child suffering from extreme autism as WWI generals were from the trenches.
X was collected from four days in the care of the State last Friday and once back in the bosom of the family home reverted to feral type, reminding her mother why she’d deposited her in that care the previous weekend. X’s deterioration over just the last six months has rendered even the limited tricks that could once be used to momentarily occupy her completely redundant. In care, an entire team are employed to reduce X’s appetite for destruction, but the social services expect her mother to do the work of four or five people around the clock, 24/7, subjecting herself to continual assaults of biting, scratching and screaming for all of X’s waking hours. The individual members of staff attending to her in care have been subject to the same treatment, yet have to make excuses for it in order to accentuate the non-existent positivity that their box-ticking training requires.
X’s mother was informed a panel would review her situation at an unspecified future date, a Star Chamber hearing at which she would not be allowed to present her case nor provide the video evidence of X’s behaviour. Instead, an inexperienced social worker who has never even met X in the flesh would be there on her behalf, to submit a report compiled from an interview with X’s mother that (unsurprisingly) wouldn’t suggest any members of that panel take X into their homes for 24 hours to see for themselves precisely what X’s mother has to deal with. This virtual Soviet trial would then decide the future of someone not entitled to attend, with the umpteenth social worker to have dealt with X’s case during her short life being the mother’s proxy representative. This is the kind of farce that forces parents such as X’s mother into taking dramatic action.
The authorities are not accustomed to parents challenging their authority and questioning their wisdom because the parents are usually so mentally and physically browbeaten by the experience of looking after their problem children that they have no energy to fight back. X’s mother knows if she doesn’t take this stand then her life is effectively over. On Sunday, she rang the same emergency number she’d rung the previous weekend and after the phone was answered by a human being, the moment she explained the situation she was immediately transferred to an answer-machine. So staggeringly ineffective are the social services, someone in a similar position even advised X’s mother to dial 999 instead. She didn’t, but she dispatched an email to all parties with a vested interest in her continuing to endure a nightmarish excuse for a life and made it clear she wouldn’t be collecting X from school again on Monday. She stuck to her word and refuses to collect her at the end of the week.
The pressures on X’s mother following her actions, not only from the facsimile togetherness of the mother’s union, but from a system that expects her to fulfil a duty no sane person could stomach for as long as she already has before heading for the nearest bridge, is a consequence of a mindset that demands subservience to a consensus nobody signed-up for. And yet the consensus is there – in the social services, the DWP, the NHS, the police force, the media, online, f***ing everywhere. Oppose it at one’s peril, but for God’s sake oppose it. If you don’t, we’re finished; and the future will be a boot stamping on a human face, forever – although O’Brien neglected to mention it will be a smiley one. After all, we wouldn’t want to frighten the children.
© The Editor
8 thoughts on “CONSENSUAL HEALING”
I’ve recently had a first-time test of dealing with Social Services and it was a confusing experience.
It took almost 4 weeks to get a social worker assigned to the case (my aged and very frail mother-in-law in a critical state), despite repeated phone calls and assurances of action and high priority. However, once on the case, the actual social worker herself was brilliant – quickly analysing the situation, clearly explaining the processes and options, all the time coming over as both caring and professional. Everything that she said would happen did happen when she said it would happen and the case was then resolved in a positive way very promptly.
I was pleasantly surprised with how it was handled but also very concerned that the initial phase had been so wholly unresponsive (to the degree of complete silence) that I can imagine anyone in real ‘crisis’ would find that hard to accommodate. It strikes me that, even though they may have some excellent operatives at the coal-face, the overhead management and case-allocation systems are just not fit for purpose. That they can hold vital ‘panels’ at which the futures of critical cases are decided, but without any close representation of those affected, seems to create an ideal opportunity for significant misjudgements to occur.
It’s not all about ‘vicious Tory cuts’ as many claim, it’s more about proper management of resources, or maybe just some proper management – management who realise that it’s real lives they’re affecting and who design all the procedures and processes to achieve optimum outcomes with as little excess-baggage as possible.
Maybe it’s time for a zero-base review, the sort of exercise where they ask “What are we really here to
do?” and then design what they do and how they do it to achieve that, just that, no more and no less, stripping away all the unnecessary baggage they have gathered along the way. I’ve done that sort of exercise in my corporate past – it’s usually quite revealing, but maybe they wouldn’t really want that revealed.
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The reports I’ve received have usually been in praise of the social workers themselves. It seems the lower down the scale one goes, the better the people one comes into contact with. Higher up, however, and that’s when the rot sets in. It’s hard to see those layers of management ever being dismantled, mainly because too many up there are doing so well out of the system.
Those layers of management are really part of the regrettably-standard CYA approach – ‘cover your arse’ – by passing every action through a ‘committee process’, that ensures that no individual staffer can ever be identified as ‘accountable’ – the inanimate committee made the decision, not one person, so no one person can ever be hauled over the coals afterwards. As you observe, there’s little chance of them ever giving up that anal-coverage process when they’ve got all their jobs, salaries, expenses and pensions at stake.
When our own recent case was concluded, I sent a very appreciative and complimentary e-mail to the social worker concerned, remarking on her caring and professional approach – she replied saying that she was overwhelmed to receive such a positive feedback, as it seems they only ever get a kicking and never any praise from anyone. I thought that was revealing too, not only of their client-base but also of their clumsy management – obviously never learned the priceless value of positive strokes.
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Too true. One social worker who apologised to X’s mother for the ineptitude of his superiors was promptly sacked for doing so.
I think that observation can also apply to organisations in the commercial sector.
Mind you, in typing these words, it occurs to me that, frankly, some of the most ghastly people I’ve encountered in the workplace have been middle aged lower level employees who didn’t advance for good reasons – due to being appalling gossips and time servers – but who were basically unsackable due to tenure, union rules, management cowardice, etc.
That X’s mother has managed to retain her sanity is a testament to the woman. I’m quite sure that many another would’ve failed that (“cruel and unnatural”?) test. But how much longer must she wait for a proper resolution to the problem? Ironically, were she to display signs of losing her marbles, thereby becoming an unfit mother, a solution would be found tout de suite.
On a related note, I knew from an early age that motherhood was not for me. It’s the dependency status that I cannot cope with. Which works both ways: since the age of 17, I’ve earned my own keep because I didn’t want to be anyone’s dependent — and that includes the man I married. (He held the same views about remaining childless.) I don’t think there’s quite the same societal pressure nowadays but, back then, not wanting children was considered “selfish”!
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It still has a certain stigma to it, perhaps even more so in this age of celebrity mums and their fashion accessory kids. However, the female friends I have who also took the decision not to breed are regularly showered in admiration from those that didn’t, which is telling.
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